"But you have carefully followed my DOCTRINE, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love perseverance....But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the HOLY SCRIPTURES, WHICH ARE ABLE TO MAKE YOU WISE FOR SALVATION through faith which is in Christ Jesus. ALL SCRIPTURE is given by inspiration of God, and is PROFITABLE FOR DOCTRINE, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be COMPLETE, thoroughly EQUIPPED for every GOOD WORK. I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will no longer endure SOUND DOCTRINE, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." From 2 Timothy 3:10,14- 4:4
Notice from the passage above that Paul tells us not only that Scripture saves (for the gospel is doctrine, or a teaching from Scripture), but that Scripture, all of it, is profitable for doctrine, correction, and instruction in righteousness so that we may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. Then the exhortation is given by Paul to Timothy, a young teacher, to continue to teach and convince and rebuke and exhort, with longsuffering. In other words, no matter what, preach truth, preach sound doctrine, preach deep theology, because if you don't the people will fall into bad doctrine and hate the true teaching of Scripture.
Now let this be the end of those who just want to do good works/deeds for God and not worry about studying Scripture or debating theology- Scripture commands us to love and debate theology so that we will hold fast to the true teachings of Christ! And why do we do this? So that we may be "complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." The point being, without sound theology/doctrine, you cannot actually offer to God a "good work."
This is true because God is ultimately most concerned about the heart attitude with which we do things and live our lives, and our heart attitude can only be right when we know God rightly and see Him for the glorious Lord that He is. The more I understand God, the more I see the goodness of his laws and commands, and the more eagerly I will do them for His glory and find enjoyment in my being obedient to Him.
So, let's ask the pressing question- why do so many Christians find it difficult to study theology/doctrine? The answer, I believe, is because they haven't been raised on sound doctrine. Free will, commit your life to Christ doctrine runs rampant in our churches today, and looking good in these circles is just as important, if not more important, than actually being good. This has given many believers a strong scent of hypocrisy from their pastors and has taught them to be follow suit. Understandably then, some may conclude that doing good, actually being good, is the most important thing, and that doctrine/theology is abstract, unimportant, and largely a waste of time.
"Just retain the basics, like the doctrine of the trinity, and that Christ died for sinners, and that is all that you need," seems to be the common sentiment today. Those who think like this often only read practical, applicational things on how to live your life, which of course is largely devoid of actual doctrine and theological instruction. Those who write such books are often pastors, or to be more accurate, motivational speakers and tell you what to do and perhaps how to do it, but not why you do it. And the why, and even how, is what theology teaches us, and is the necessary undergirding that produces the actual fruit, the actual good works. The truth is, there cannot be good works without a proper understanding of why the work is actually good. Many well meaning Christians try to do good works for Jesus, but for reasons other than those Christ actually commanded. The only way to correct this is sound doctrine, studying Scripture to became sound theologians.
So there has been this bifurcation, this divide between thinking and doing, but in reality it is a continuum; thinking most necessarily leads to doing. Thinking rightly, when carried through properly, should lead working for Christ rightly, which is exactly what the passage posted above tells us. Doctrine and theology equip us for every good work, because it shows us why what God commands is so good, so important, and so beautiful.
But that last statement isn't always exemplified by the very ones who make it- like me. Many who love theology and study it passionately, as all Christians should, can come off as arrogant, snotty, and not very Christ-like in their actions. This ruins it for those of us who try to study theology in order to live rightly and happily, bringing greater glory to God.
The solution? Keep teaching sound doctrine, proclaim it, showing why and how it connects to sound living and greater joy for you and greater glory for God. But just as importantly, live out your doctrine, which is your faith, humbly and godly. If it is true that good theology should lead to godly lives, then I must be living a godly life if my message is to land with any weight and truth to it. If my actions betray my message, my message is shown to be false. If I claim theology changed me for the better, but I am not living any better, I'm just a liar.
Churches have done much damage. So have parents, Christian schools, Christian teachers. This lack of love for good theology will not be easy to overcome. It will have to be gradual because it is an uphill climb, but we must press on, as Paul says, with all patience and longsuffering. We must continue to contend for the faith and for our brothers and sisters who don't yet value Scripture and doctrine as they ought. And we must do that, not only with our pleading words, but with godly lives.
And when they ask why we are so godly, we will say, "Theology."